Sunday, September 15, 2019

Review: 'As you like it' Shakespeare's tale of love at first sight a Five Star production at STNJ

Ben Jacoby (r) fights Jonathan Higginbotham (l) Safiya Kaijya Harris & Sarah Nicole Deaver (rear center)

The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey is now presenting a five-star cast in a fascinating production of Shakespeare’s comedy ‘As You Like It’ directed by Paul Mullins (Ringmaster may be a more appropriate title considering the ebb and flow of the large cast). The complex plot includes numerous dark turns, but spoiler alert….everything comes out happily for all concerned in the end. Consider the long wordy first act as a plate of meat and potatoes as you are introduced to the large cast….with the second act as the ice cream dessert blessed with a mound of whipped cream topped with a beautiful cherry.
The basic plot is extremely simple:  Rosalind, the daughter of a Duke, whose younger brother
Ben Jacoby & S K Harris
Frederick banished him and seized his Dukedom, falls in love with a young man named Orlando, but before she can even think twice about it, she is banished by uncle Frederick. He threatens death if she comes near the court again. It gets more complicated since her best friend and cousin is Frederick’s daughter Celia. Meanwhile Orlando, suffering the wrath of his eldest brother Oliver who has denied him a proper lifestyle of a gentleman, flees into the Forest of Arden. Now Celia with Rosalind, disguised as a man, also make for the forest. Upon their arrival in the forest, they happen upon Orlando and his manservant. What follows is an elaborate scheme devised by Rosalind to find out the sincerity of Orlando's supposed passion for her, and to further capture his heart, through the witty and mischievous male façade.
Did I say simple? Most of the second act is set in the dark forest with the brightest, cleverest dialogue with typical Elizabethan risqué double entendres sprinkled throughout.
Sarah Nicole Deaver & Safiya Kaijya Harris
The spot- on leads are; Safiya Kaijya Harris as Rosalind, a welcome newcomer to the STNJ stage. She makes a very attractive girl and a handsome young man; Ben Jacoby as the love struck Orlando; Sarah Nicole Deaver as Rosalind’s equally attractive friend and clever schemer; Torsten Johnson nicely makes the transition from vile brother to proper suitor of Celia; Devin Conway is a fine Le Beau, and a pure joy as Phoebe,the shepherdess. She absolutely nails this key comedy role; directly from our rave review last month of his Rainmaker performance is the impressive Anthony Marble as Jacques. He delivers one of Shakespeare’s most quoted lines “All the world is a stage.”
Rounding out the excellent cast are; Ryan Woods (Silvius), Nick Corley (Touchstone), Jonathan Higginbotham (Charles-terrific fight scene), Elizabeth Colwell (Audrey), Roger Rathburn (Adam), Earl Baker, Jr. (a perfect Duke who commands the stage at each entrance), Jack LeGoff (Amiens), and Juliet Perrell (First Forester).
The design team includes scenic design by Brittany Vasta; costume design by Nikki Delhomme; lighting design by Tony Galaska; sound design and original music by Drew Weinstein; fight direction by Rick Sordelet (excellent). The Production Stage Manager is Jackie Mariani.

Reviewed by Rick Busciglio  September 15, 2019

The F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre is located at 36 Madison Avenue (at Lancaster Road)
Madison, New Jersey (located on Drew University’s campus).

The Know the Show pre-show talks are offered free-of-cost. Prior to the show, an artist from The Shakespeare Theatre presents a pre-performance talk providing background information and an inside perspective on the production. This program is free with the purchase of a performance ticket and will be held on Thursday, September 19 at 7pm, with the show beginning at 8pm.

Earl Baker Jr. & Anthony Marble
The Shakespeare Theatre also offers Captioned Performances for the 2019 season. For patrons wishing to view captions of the dialogue and sound effects, the Captioned Performance for As You Like It will be held on Thursday, September 19 at 8pm. Captions are transmitted to the patrons’ web-enabled smart device via the Internet. Staff will be on hand prior to the beginning of the show and during the intermission to assist patrons.

Patrons with visual challenges can hear live descriptions of the action by attending the Audio-Described performance of As You Like It on Thursday, September 26 at 8pm. Pre-performance sensory webinars are available upon request and allow patrons to handle props, costumes, and set pieces prior to the show.

Remaining performance dates: Fridays (8pm.): September 20, September 27
Saturdays (2 pm.): September 21, September 28
Saturdays (8 pm.): September 21, September 28
Sundays (2 pm.): September 22, September 29
Sundays (7:30 pm.): September 15, September 22

For tickets and information: Call 973-408-5600 or visit

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